The first time I heard this term was in the inlaws’ balay. I couldn’t understand why there was so much pride in the statement, “we have a dirty kitchen.” I looked around at the the kitchen, and while it was a little messy, I couldn’t use the term “dirty’ to describe it and said as much. That got quite a few laughs. Another misinterpretation by the silly kano.

The dirty kitchen of the Philippines can best be described as an outdoor kitchen, or similar to a built in barbecue. It dates way back (Spanish influence?), and in the provinces it may be the only kitchen they have. At least it is more likely to have the outdoor “dirty kitchen” then the indoor kitchen, if there is just one.

It is difficult to give a specific description of the dirty kitchen, as they come in all shapes, sizes and configurations. Most of the them are wood or coal heated, but that is not true for all. Higher end, more expensive ones, can rival anything you may see in the house. Traditional dirty kitchens were constructed of soil and/or wood. Concrete is common now on the basics ones. Tile is also used, in conjunction with other materials.

Unless you do not have the room, or the funds, I can not see why I wouldn’t want to have a dirty kitchen at my future residence in the Philippines. There are a number of reasons to posess one, but these are my main reasons:

Extra space

The addition of the outside dirty kitchen not only provides additional cooking space, it opens up more room within the house. The additional cooking area is especially useful for large get togethers, and parties. We all know that there will be many relatives and many occasions to celebrate, so this extra space allows for more to get done concurrently, and at the same provides another social area.

Keeping the heat out

It gets hot in the Philippines :-) Okay, you were aware of that. So obviously the less heat that you are adding to the interior of the house, the less you need to try to remove. Most cooked items can be done with the dirty kitchen, alleviating the need to fire up the stove in the house. As electricity is very expensive, this can really help with those bills. Of course you will have to buy the fuel for the dirty kitchen (probably wood for me), but that is an easy trade off in my opinion.

Keep the stink out

There are a lot of strong smelling odors emitted from the various traditional pilipino meals. Fish in particular, the dried variety especially, can be somewhat overwhelming. Given that many of the homes are quite small, and the aircon is often only run in bedrooms, you might be living with those odors for awhile. Being that I don’t eat meat, I’d prefer not to smell that all the time. Don’t get me wrong, I can and will live with it, but if there is an alternative, why not use it?

If I end up having a home built, it will certainly contain plans for a dirty kitchen. If I end up in previously constructed home, I’ll be making plans to add one, if for some reason there isn’t one already. The cost to do so can be as little or as much as you wish to make it.

Photo credit: philippinesorbust.com

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